EL PASO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – President Donald Trump will visit El Paso just days after a massacre that left 22 dead and 26 injured at a WalMart.
While the president intends to share a message of condolence, the overwhelming sentiment in the border city of nearly 700,000 is he isn’t welcome.
“It’s heartbreaking and people are mourning and in my opinion is not time for Mr. Trump to come,” said lifelong El Paso resident Diana Flores.
Another resident of the grief-stricken town, Janelle Contreras came to pay respects at the site of the massacre.
“There is a lot of rhetoric and language that Donald Trump has used and it has fostered the fear,” she said.
Their sentiments come from an overwhelming belief that President Trump’s rhetoric on immigration and Hispanic communities may be to blame for motivating the carnage that was unleashed on Saturday. El Paso is a predominantly a Hispanic city of immigrants.
El Paso’s Mayor Dee Margo answered questions on Tuesday about whether the President is welcome.
“I did not invite him out here. It is his purview and choice. He is the President of the United States. We will show him El Paso,” said Mayor Margo.
Multiple protests are planned. And Democratic presidential candidates continue to criticize him, including former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who will hold a counter-rally in his hometown of El Paso during the president’s visit.
22 people in my hometown are dead after an act of terror inspired by your racism. El Paso will not be quiet and neither will I. https://t.co/dakFPKj0vJ
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) August 7, 2019
“Twenty-two people in my hometown are dead after an act of terror inspired by your own racism. El Paso will not be quiet and neither will I,” O’Rourke tweeted on Tuesday to the president.
Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar of El Paso tweeted Tuesday that she declined to meet with President Trump when he comes to the area.
The White House invited me to join @realDonaldTrump during his visit to El Paso. My response was clear. I requested a phone call with him today in order to share what I have now heard from many constituents, including some who are victims of Saturday’s attack.
— Rep. Veronica Escobar (@RepEscobar) August 6, 2019
Chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party, Adolpho Telles said in part through an e-mailed statement to CBS 11 News: “He is doing exactly what he should do as President of our country, state and of El Paso. It is important that the President recognize the pain that El Paso is going through. I expect that he will comment on the tragedy, the need for healing and the resilience of the citizens of El Paso.”
The president is expected to visit with survivors in the hospital and first responders during his visit to El Paso on Wednesday afternoon.
But even as the president left the White House, he strongly criticized those who contend he bears some responsibility for the nation’s divisions, returning to political arguing even as he calls for unity.
“My critics are political people,” Trump said. “These are people that are looking for political gain.”
It is a highly unusual predicament for an American president to at once try to unite a community and a nation at the same time he is being criticized as contributing to a combustible climate that can spawn violence.
Some 85% of U.S. adults believe the tone and nature of political debate has become more negative, with a majority saying Trump has changed things for the worse, according to recent Pew Research Center polling.
And more than three quarters, 78%, say that elected officials who use heated or aggressive language to talk about certain people or groups make violence against those people more likely.
White House officials said Trump’s visits would be similar to those he’s paid to grieving communities including Parkland, Florida, and Las Vegas, with the Republican president and the first lady saluting first responders and spending time with mourning families and survivors.
“What he wants to do is go to these communities and grieve with them, pray with them, offer condolences,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Tuesday. He said Trump also wants “to have a conversation” about ways to head off future deadly episodes.
“We can do something impactful to prevent this from ever happening again, if we come together,” the spokesman said.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)